A man who claimed he was so disabled he could barely walk has been busted as a BENEFIT CHEAT after being spotted working at the top of a historic peak.
Graham Maughan, 48, has volunteered at the National Trust for three years – working at the iconic Penshaw Monument which is only accessible by a steep climb including 78 STEPS.
However, throughout that time, Maughan pocketed over £8,000 in disability living allowance (DLA) at the highest mobility rate.
Sunderland Magistrates Court, Tyne and Wear, heard Maughan had told the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) he was in constant pain, seven days a week, and could only walk a few steps.
But his cover was blown after an anonymous tip-off to the National Benefit Fraud hotline.
Prosecutor Laura Johnson said Maughan claimed a total of £8,710 he was not entitled to during 158 weeks between February 2012 and March 2015.
Maughan has been in receipt of the same benefit since September 1993 on the basis he was unable to walk with the money being paid into his post office account.
Mrs Johnson said: “The defendant was prosecuted on the basis that he failed to declare a change in his circumstances, namely that there had been an improvement in his mobility.
“On February 22, 2015, information was received that he was working as a volunteer for the National Trust at the top of Penshaw Monument.
“He had declared that he could only walk 25 yards or for five to 10 minutes before experiencing severe discomfort and that he suffered from this seven days a week.
“He completed a claim on that basis and said he was forced to use a walking stick and wore a brace on his left foot and was still in pain.”
Maughan pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to declare a change in circumstances.
Mitigating, James Palmer said his client had made full admissions in interview and had started to make repayments.
Mr Palmer said: “Mr Maughan is still on DLA just not at the higher level.
“He still has difficulty walking but not to the same extent as in 1993. He was in a car accident, both his legs were shattered and he was in a wheelchair for a year.
“This was not a fraudulent claim at the start. He was entitled to the DLA at the higher level.”
Mr Palmer added: “As the years have gone by, he’s been able to become not better, but more capable and because over the years he’s become more capable and he’s no longer been entitled to the higher rate.
“He took this job to get out of the house and volunteered with the National Trust.
“Of course Penshaw Monument is up a hill – 78 steps up a hill. That’s clearly not someone who needs the higher rate of DLA.”
Bench chairman Janet Hutton told Maughan they were prepared to deal with the matter via a fine.
She said: “We have noted that it is over 30 years since you have committed an offence and given your clean history and your original qualification for benefits, we are prepared to deal with this offence by means of a fine.
“We also note that you are paying back the benefits that you were overpaid.”
Maughan was fined £80 with £85 costs and £28 surcharge.